It has now been more than 5 months since we last gathered to play pickleball at Via Paraiso (VP). On March 17, the Monterey Bay Pickleball Club (MBPC) made the decision to suspend organized play due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Even though VP is now open for singles play, our club remains on hiatus until the outbreak is under control. The Board of Directors has continued to meet periodically throughout the pandemic and we have received some questions from members on various topics. So, this Blog post is an update on what has been happening with the club, where we’ve been, and where we are going.
Pickleball Status on the Monterey Peninsula
While MBPC play will remain on hold until the pandemic is over, you are free to play on your own where permitted. The information below is provided in case you want to try to organize your own games. The club will remain in communication with the City of Monterey about their plans for reopening VP to our group, and we will continue to look for other venues and resume open play again as soon as the venue(s) dictate that it is safe to do so.
Via Paraiso, is currently limited to singles play only. Morris Dill courts in Pacific Grove is also limited to singles only. This limitation applies to both tennis and pickleball. Both facilities have posted specific policies for play. You are welcome to play in either location but please follow the rules. This is a good opportunity to drill! Failing to follow the rules could harm our relationship with these municipalities and be detrimental to pickleball play as we make our way back to normalcy. The parks and recreation departments of these two cities have been supportive of pickleball, and as we continue to pursue better facilities, it is important that we respect their decisions.
Forest Hill park in Carmel is open for doubles play over the tennis net. As such, Forest Hill has seen a significant increase in play of both tennis and pickleball. This park operates on a time limit, so, if others are playing when you arrive, you may opt to wait your turn. Play time limits are posted. Please respect the posted play times if others are waiting.
Doubles play is also allowed at Wheeler Courts in Seaside during posted times, however, there are no nets. You must bring your own net you want to play there.
Like PG and VP, Forest Hill and Wheeler are embedded in residential neighborhoods, so, please try to keep noise to a minimum to avoid a neighbor revolt like we have seen in the other two communities.
Correction: I'm told only singles play is allowed at Wheeler Courts. Please review the sign posed at the courts before you play. [8/31/2020 4:12PM]
Just to reiterate, any play at the above sites is at your own discretion and the club is not currently endorsing or facilitating play at any location. The above is for informational purposes only.
Additional Court Capacity
As most of you know, before the pandemic, play at Via Paraiso suffered from long wait times due to the large number of players. Sometimes we waited more than we played! The club has been seeking to add more courts for play for several years. Unfortunately, working with local governments can be a slow process, however, we have, and will, remain persistent in our efforts to add additional courts in the area.
About a year ago we received permission from the City of Monterey to repaint the pickleball lines at VP to increase from 4 to 6 courts. The stipulation was that we needed to pay for it ourselves. The cost was approximately $3,500. Thanks to donations from many of you as well fundraising efforts such as our first pickleball tournament (at Quail Lodge) we were able to raise the necessary funds. We hired a contractor and were ready to begin.
Unfortunately, when our contractor contacted the city to begin the process late last year, he was informed that the neighbors had submitted a petition to eliminate all pickleball play from Via Paraiso. As a result, representatives from MBPC met with their neighborhood organization and various City representatives including the Mayor to try to resolve the dispute. We also spoke at both the Parks and Recreation and City Council meetings. We even formed our own petition asking Monterey residents to support pickleball play at VP. In the end, the painting was put on hold but we preserved play at VP by agreeing to abandon Saturday play.
During that time, many of you asked what was happening with the painting and, unfortunately, the responses and overall communication from the Board was muted. We discovered that the well organized VP neighbors were reading our web site and using our own communication against us. Since our club is open to anyone, we didn’t know if they might have ‘spies’ registered on our website and therefore receiving our club announcements. Now that the issue is resolved and since everything is shut down due to Covid-19, we wanted to share the reasoning for our muted communication during that time.
Perhaps the only positive outcome from that turmoil was an increased urgency for the City of Monterey to find a better home for pickleball. Some of you may recall that we have been working with the City of Monterey to develop a dedicated pickleball facility for several years.
Last year, we received a $4500 allocation from the city to identify a site capable of hosting a 6 court dedicated pickleball facility. This would include permanent, in ground nets and individually fenced courts (no more “Ball On!”). The cost of developing such a facility is about $250,000 and accounts for a significant portion of the City’s neighborhood improvement budget.
The City identified a site at Ryan Ranch and the project was tagged as one of the highest priority neighborhood projects for the upcoming year.
At nearly the same time, the Seaside City Council announced that they were acquiring a huge plot of Fort Ord land (almost 1/3 the current size of Seaside). Discussions during one of the council meetings indicated that various parks would be included in the master plan and, if we can get some or our Seaside members involved in the planning process, those parks might include pickleball courts.
Similarly, Monterey announced that they were acquiring the Old Capital site from the Pebble Beach Company. This is also a large plot of land (135 acres) with plans for parks and recreation facilities. Yet another option to lobby for pickleball courts.
Obviously, those were, and are, long term projects. To address the near term need, we had discussions with Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) regarding play on their their many tennis courts. They indicated that MPC is available to the community for play when there are no College classes or events. However, MPC does not provide any equipment (ie nets, balls, etc) and there is a fee for parking on weekdays. So, we made plans to play at MPC on weekends when parking is free and classes are not in session. We even purchased additional nets for use during club play at MPC.
Things couldn’t have been better! We had increased capacity for our busiest day of the week (Saturday), a medium term dedicated facility, and long term option for additional dedicated facilities.
And that's when Covid hit…..
Now the City of Monterey has significant financial hurdles to overcome and all money allocated to projects like our dedicated pickleball facility have been redirected to more important areas. The long term development opportunities on those new parcels in Monterey and Seaside are now even longer term.
Even our near term solution at MPC remains on hold as the campus courts continue to be closed due to the pandemic (please don't try to play there yet).
While this has been a crushing blow and it may seem that we have not accomplished anything, we thought it was important to show that a lot of work has been done by members of this club to advance picklball play on the peninsula. A big “Thank You!” goes out to all those people that attended council meetings, performed fund raising or contributed funds, worked to diffuse the situation with the neighbors, and to those that continue to support pickleball in our community in other ways.
In dealing with the City of Monterey, we found that it would have been useful to know in which city each member resides. For example, when we prepared the petition in support of pickleball, we needed to contact all the Monterey residents. So, we’ve updated the web site to allow you to enter where you live – just the city, we do not need your full address. To provide this information, please login to your account on the web site (upper right corner), then, click on your name (also upper right corner) then select ‘My Account’ from the menu and fill out the ‘City’ field.
We have just passed our 1 year anniversary with the club web site. As such, some of you will soon receive your first renewal notice via email. Obviously, the club has not sponsored any activities in the last 5 months and we don’t know when it will again. So, while we appreciate your renewal donations (which are tax deductible 😊), we understand if you feel a contribution is not appropriate at this time. However, if you do decide to donate, please know that your money will go into our bank account to be used toward club expenses (the web site, nets, balls, etc) and improving our facilities. We currently have about $6000 in our account. For new court facilities, some sort of public/private partnership may help push pickleball facilities through the pipeline. As such, we plan to continue building up our bank balance, while also searching for development partners, so we can respond to an opportunity should one present itself.
Now, if someone out there has $250,000 they want to donate, don’t be shy! We have a beautiful new 6 court facility with your name on it!
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us at any time via the website:
Michael Lang for the MBPC Board of Directors